Smaradahana Chapter 8


“My head is spinning,” Luna said.

“That’s the margarita,” Panji laughed.

“Ah…..I need some fresh air,” She added.

“Come on, let’s walk along the beach, that will help clear your head.” He waved to the waiter for the check and left some cash along with the tip.

They walked out of the restaurant and headed to the beach, “Give me your shoes!” Panji said to her.

“Why? Do you want to wear them?” She teased.

“Hey, I’m trying to be a gentleman here, it must be very uncomfortable to walk in high heels on the sand.” He extended his left hand to receive the shoes.

Luna lifted her legs and took off her shoes, she gave them to him and walked by his side. “Thanks.”

“Luna, how did your mother die?” All this reminiscing made him miss the kind and warm woman.

“Stage four cancer,” Luna looked at the ocean, “When we were in the States, she had a hysterectomy because the doctors diagnosed her with uterus cancer, we thought that she had beaten it, but six years ago she began complaining, and when we took her to the hospital, we found out that the cancer had metastasised, two weeks later, she left.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Panji bowed his head.

“She was a great person, I prefer to remember everything she did for us during her life.”

He nodded, “That’s the best thing to do.”

“Hey, look at that moon,” Luna pointed at the sky, “La Luna…..”

“La Luna.” He repeated.

“I told her that when she misses me, she should look at the sky, the moon that shines here is the same that shines there.” She said dreamily.

Her silhouette against the moonlight captivated him, he could see how her soft hair waved as the ocean breeze blew it gently. Her dreamy look as she observed the moon shining on the horizon made his heart flutter. “I’ve never thought about it that way, that the moon also shines in heaven.”

She turned and looked at him, “Not in heaven! In Seattle Washington silly!” She exclaimed.

He looked at her and smiled in glee, “I think the margarita is still scrambling your brain. Who’s in Seattle?”

“She is. Samantha,” Luna replied.

He arched his eyebrow, “Samantha?”

Luna quickly shook her head, “Hey what time is it? we should go back to the hotel, we have to work tomorrow. You said we have to survey the tourist destinations. Do we walk back? Or should we take a taxi?”

She was obviously evading, it was too obvious. But he didn’t want to force her to do something that she didn’t want to do, “Let’s walk along the beach to the hotel, it’s nice out here. Can I hold your hand?”

She stretched out her hand, he took it and  held it tightly, “Thank you for a great night,” She said sweetly.

“You get along well with a lot of people, don’t you?” Panji started another conversation.

“Why do you say that?”

“You seem very friendly with everyone at work, and the way you got along fast with the people at the hotel.”

“Everybody has their talents.”

“And were you popular in school too?”

“Yah, when you’re older than everybody in your class, you have to find creative ways to make them accept you and not judge.”

“Why were you older than everybody in your class?” He asked, his brows scrunched together.

“I had to take a break from studying for a year.”

“Why?”

She looked at him, “Aren’t you nosey?”

“I just want to know everything about you,”

“Would you still like me if you did?” She asked, “I might disappoint you.”

“Try me!”

“Maybe I will, but not tonight. Look, there’s the hotel!”

* * *

He let her go to her room, and he did the same. As he was about to hit the shower, his cell phone rang. Panji glanced at the screen, it was Roni. He answered it right away.

“Mr. Roni…” He said.

“Hey, how’s it going over there?” Roni asked.

“Productive.”

“Listen, I got a call from the photographer, he has another big job here in jakarta, so he can only make a one day trip to Lombok, you’ll have to make good use of that time.”

“Ah…That’s such a pity.” Panji said “But I’m sure we can manage to take some great pictures of our own.”

“Hows’ Luna doing?” Roni asked.

“I think she’s doing a good job, she’s also enjoying the scenery here.”

“That’s good. You can use this opportunity to entertain her,”

“Hey, now that I’ve got you on the phone, do you know a person called Samantha?” Panji asked.

“Yeah, of course, I do. Luna’s sister.”

Panji was caught by surprise, “I didn’t know she had a sister.”

He heard Roni chuckle, “Her baby sister, and when I say baby, I mean baby. They have a huge age gap between them. The girl is probably eight or nine years old now.”

“Luna has an eight-year-old sister called Samantha?” Panji thought about the scenario, he remembered that she told him her mother had a hysterectomy when they were in the US. So how could she have given birth to another child?

“Is she adopted?” His voice was shaking.

“I doubt it, when you get a chance to see her you won’t believe your eyes. She’s the split image of her older sister.” Roni paused, “Luna worships her, every time she left home after fighting with her father, she would always bring the girl along. I guess she’s sad and heartbroken because Samantha left to the States to live with her aunt about two months ago.”

He felt as though somebody had punched his gut leaving him gasping for air. Panji quickly sat on the bed to calm himself down. “Roni, I have to go now, I’ll talk to you later.” He quickly ended the call.

“Samantha….” He whispered, “Sam….Samantha…….” His impulse was to go to her room and ask for an explanation, but he can’t risk her getting angry at him. He took a deep breath and calmed himself down, then entered the bathroom to take a quick shower before going to bed.

* * *

“I spoke to Roni last night about the photographer yesterday afternoon, he has another big job, so he could only be here for a day,” Panji told her as they were having breakfast, “If we want photos of the tourist destinations, we will have to do it ourselves.”

“Don’t worry about it, I have a good camera. Where are going today?” She wiped her mouth with a napkin.

“To the waterfalls, then tomorrow will go to the Gilis.”

“Okay,”

“The waterfalls are at the foot of Mount Rinjani, so there would be some trekking involved.

“It’s going to be a long trip so we better get going,”

“Well, I’m done with my breakfast.”

“Let’s get ready and get going, then.”

* * *

The one hour drive towards the waterfall was an interesting one. They took the scenic route near the beaches, they even got to see the smaller islands which they plan to visit tomorrow.

“I’m going to get us some bottled water, there are no shops up there,” Panji said as soon as he paid the entry fee.

As he walked back to where she was waiting he couldn’t help but notice how she was looking at the scene, seemingly lost in thought, he could see her chest heave as she exhaled in despair.

“Are you okay?” He asked.

She put on a big smile, “Hey, I thought you went back to the city to buy the water.” She teased with her usual cheerful and cheeky voice. “Let’s start our trekking, heh? I can’t wait to get to the waterfall, it’ll give me a chance to show off my photography talent.”

“The stone stairway is over to that side, he pointed, let’s go.” He took her by the hand.

“Look, there it is,” Her voice was with excitement, “I’ll race you there.”

She offered to race him, but she didn’t let go of his hand, instead she dragged him to keep up with her. Panji fastened his steps too, they ran side by side towards the step. An older couple smiled when they saw them. It was a twelve minute climb until they could hear the water hitting the rocky river that ran under it.

“I want to take a photo of the river,” She stopped and took off her backpack, she held it between her legs and opened it, pulling out a camera from the bag, she pointed the lens at the river and fired away.

“Let’s go to the waterfall,” He said impatiently. “I want you to take a photo of it from several different angles.”

Panji switched into business mode in a blink of an eye. He knew that she was pouting at his constant nagging at her to focus on work, but he was clear with his objective, the sooner they finish, the sooner they could start to really enjoy the scenery, and the sooner he can start with his plan of conquest.

After taking each shot she would show it to him, he didn’t hesitate to tell her to delete and retake if he found it not to his liking.

“Nazi!” She barked at him.

Two hours later he finally felt that he was satisfied with the collection of photos that she had taken and  allowed her to sit on the ground behind a rock, he installed himself next to her. Snickering at her annoyed and pouting face. He grabbed her lips with his finger, “Quack..quack..quack…” He mimiked the sound of a duck.

She pushed his hand and turned away from him.

“You know the local people believe that bathing in the water here can take years off one’s face, which would do you good because that pout will leave wrinkles on your skin.” He teased.

She covered her ears with both hands, “La…la …la…la…”

Her childish behavior was endearing, he couldn’t hold himself back anymor and pulled her into a hug and kissing her cheeks feverously.

“Stop that! Stop that” She struggle to escape, “Someone might see us.”

Her words made him happy and relieved at the same time, “Ah…you want me to stop becaus you’re afraid that someone might see us, and not because you don’t like it. Don’t forget that today is a week day, and look there’s no one else here.” He whispered in her ear.

She smiled but then quickly frowned again, “Stay away from me, slave driver!”

He got up “I want to see what’s behind the water curtain, I’ll be waiting for you in the water.”

He took off his shirt and walked in, the water at his feet was cool contrast to the warm humid air around him. He walked carefully on the rockes to the wall of the cliff, keeping his balance making sure not to slip. The pouring water fell on his shoulders and his head giving a a sense of freshness. He leaned against the rock wall wondering if she would come to him or not.

He heard a splashing sound as she walked through the curtain of water, her wet hair fell down her back and her shirt stuck on her body framing her figure. The sight of her was very alluring to him, he reached out his hand to her, stirring when she held it and walked over to him.

“You are very beautiful,” He gasped as he lead her to him taking her in his arms he used his hand to remove the strains of hair that fell in front of her eyes. With the same hand he caressed her cheek, she closed her eyes as if feeling his skin against hers. “Will you let me get to know you? The real you? What you’re hiding behind that cheerful mask that you put on, behind that perky facade. I want to know your happiness, your pain, your hopes, everything.”

She nodded, “Tonight, I’ll tell you everything about me.”

“Don’t run away from me again,”

“I won’t” She said, “But maybe after I tell you about me, it would be you who runs away from me.”

He  leaned forward pressing her lips againts his.

* * *

“That was a long day,” She complained once they got back to the hotel.

“You can say that again,” He agreed, “It’s a good thing we were able to take many pictures, we can select the bet ones to upload it to the new web page.”

“Yeah, I admire how you take ownership of this project. If I didn’t know better, I could swear that you’re the owner of the hotel.”

He smiled, “We should always put more than a hundred percent to our work.”

“True!”

“But there’s something else that I’d like to dedicate a hundred percent to,” He cooed in her ear as he held her by the waist.

“Umm…I feel sticky all over.” She changed the conversation.

“Are you trying to run away from me again?” He circled his arm around her waist.

“No, look, I’m going to refresh myself, I suggest you do the same thing too. I’ll wait for you in my room.”

“Okay..okay….”

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